Requires Photography


African, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nsapo peoples
20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Democratic Republic of the Congo


Height x width: 16 9/16 x 10 5/8 in. (42 x 27 cm)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, sheet metal, iron

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Axes, maces, clubs

Iron knives, swords, and other weapons are more than armaments; they are powerful symbols of prestige and authority. Many weapons are intricately adorned with abstract geometric patterns, figurative elements, western-made objects, and copper accents, all of which are intended to increase the status of the object’s owner. In addition to the functional and ceremonial aspects of African weaponry, iron blades were excellent trade items that could function as currency.

The blade of this axe is connected to the wooden handle by five iron struts. The struts are placed into a fire so that small faces can be welded to them. This particular axe is attributed to the Nsapo, a Songye subgroup. The detailed struts and the copper sheets that adorn the handle indicate that this was a prestige weapon belonging to a high-ranking individual.


Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart